Teaching unions say political interference must not get in the way of children’s future

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Teaching unions have condemned Michael Gove for putting political ideology ahead of children’s future, after today’s GCSE results showed a drop in the top grades for the first time in their 26-year history.

NUT general secretary Christine Blower said: “Shifting the goalposts for grades has had a huge impact on individual students and the future of schools. It is not only very unsettling but also extremely irresponsible. These are arbitrary changes which in no way reflect the work of students and teachers and are clearly unfair.

“Raising the GCSE A* – C bench mark from 35 – 40% is a move that has more to do with politics than with education. Michael Gove is well aware that the majority of schools have no desire to be separated from their local authorities, and handed over to unaccountable, unelected sponsors. If classified as ‘failing’, they will of course be more threatened with academy conversion.

“This combined with the changes to grade boundaries mean that many schools will be facing a double whammy from an education secretary who appears to be more concerned about pushing through his ideological agenda for education than what is actually fair for everyone.

“Some of today’s students face more hurdles than previously. Coalition government policies such as cutting the Education Maintenance Allowance and raising tuition fees ensures that continuing in education or training is just not financially feasible for many students. We need to return to a position where those with suitable qualifications can go on past GCSEs regardless of their background. These are the changes that will make a difference to pupils not government fiddling from the side lines with examinations”.

NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: “Today’s results are especially significant in that they come just two months after the Secretary of State effectively declared them worthless by plotting to scrap GCSEs and return to an elitist, two-tier O-levels system.

“This is despite the fact that there is no evidence that the current examinations system is broken or that our qualifications trail behind those of other countries.

“However, the government should consider that it is unlikely to be long before there is clear evidence that its policies are affecting educational outcomes.

“The denigration of state schools, the drive for a narrow elitist curriculum, the removal of essential support for families, the erosion of educational entitlements for children and young people and the relentless attacks on teachers and the teaching profession will take their toll, undermining over a decade of year-on-year improvement in the achievements of young people and schools.”

ATL education policy advisor Adrian Prandle said: “There is unacceptable confusion today about whether so-called grade inflation has been banned and grade boundaries made tougher. Children’s chances in life are at stake here and it is hugely unfair to make today’s 16-year-olds the victims of political football.

“It is wrong to make improvement impossible. If the reason for the drop in top grades is because politicians have determined they want exams to be tougher, they must explain this to the youngsters who will suffer when they compete in the future for jobs, apprenticeships, college and university places with those a year or two older.

“We are also worried by the government’s quick dismissal of the value of vocational qualifications, which provide key knowledge and skills required for many jobs in engineering, the media, computer games industry, retail and leisure. In today’s fast moving world we should make sure that young people have the widest possible options and the chance to work in new and emerging industries.”


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